Jun 012015

On 27 May I presented at the conference ‘Creativity: Method or Madness’ at the University of Glasgow.

Creativity: Method or Madness

My paper addressed issues of composition as research, using case studies from my PhD thesis to demonstrate how I  combine composition and musical analysis to approach musical ideas. Coming in the midst of the final work on my thesis, preparing this paper was quite instructive and helped clarify the methods and techniques I had used across the three and a bit years of study. My full abstract is below.

Compositional practice in and as musical research: a led/based solution.

Composers have been an integral part of university music departments and the wider academic community for decades. Their contribution made to musical research continues to be rich and varied and, whilst practitioners adopt a variety of approaches, there are two broad views of composition within research. When approached as practice-based, a finished musical work will form the research outcome: new knowledge is gained from the result of the compositional process and originality in procedure and/or result. Alternatively, in taking a practice-led approach, the act of composition may form part of the process but does not solely create the output (the outcome may instead be a traditional article). This paper proposes that such separation is unhelpful, and explores ways in which composition can incorporate both paradigms. Broader issues of creativity within research provide a background that makes the discussion applicable to a variety of fields.

The methodology of my PhD will act as an example of the integration of creative practice within research. This work combines composition and musical analysis to explore a series of twentieth-century musical notions associated with time, with analytical case studies and interlinked original compositions synthesised to investigate four themes in a manner that provides insight for both composers and listeners. Conceptual issues are highlighted, their application in new works is demonstrated, and their precedents in extant pieces are explored. This approach sees an end result formed of creative and more traditional elements, both of which contribute to overall research aims. The compositions maintain individual artistic merit, contributing knowledge in a practice-based way, whilst also addressing research questions in the manner of a practice-led approach. Examples from this thesis will demonstrate the crucial part creativity can play both in and as research, whilst highlighting some tensions and challenges that this approach creates.